mercredi 30 juillet 2014

How The Best Science Fiction Books Are Also Great Literature

By Annabelle Holman

With the sheer variety of literary genres, it's almost surprising that so many book lovers get stuck reading only one type of book. Some serious readers even go so far as to read only novels that have won a slew of prizes or are considered classics and they won't think about reading a 'light' genre such as sci-fi. Little do they know that many of the award-winning classics they prefer are also some of the best science fiction books in history.

Science fiction, or sci-fi as most people call it, usually describes an imaginary world where science and technology feature prominently. Sometimes they focus on that science and technology but some sci-fi books tend to focus more on the structure of the society they're about. There are many different types of novel within the genre, from space fiction to fiction set in a post-apocalyptic world. The authors come up with highly imaginative ideas but there have been instances where these books were actually predictions of the future.

Ancient works from as early as the 2nd century started exploring themes that could be classified as sci-fi. A work from the first half of the 17th century, 'Somnium' by Johannes Kepler, is often cited as the first truly sci-fi novel. Other early works in this imaginative genre include the classic 'Gulliver's Travels' by 18th-century writer Jonathan Swift and 'Frankenstein' by 19th-century author Mary Shelley.

Sci-fi gained popularity later in the 19th century, especially since technological advances paved the way for new ideas. One of the most influential authors from this period was H. G. Wells, who focused on technology such as a time machine and was one of the first to write about an attack by aliens. Jules Verne's great adventure novels, especially those that took readers down volcanoes or deep underneath the sea, also had a profound influence on later writers.

Two famous sci-fi authors are Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. George Orwell's thought-provoking 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' can be classified as sci-fi too, falling under the subgenre of dystopian novels. Aldous Huxley's ideas in 'Brave New World' begin to sound less like fiction and more like science when you look at advances in cloning technology.

Many writers who aren't normally known for sci-fi have written classics in the genre. Mark Twain did it with 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court', featuring time travel. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote some sci-fi poems. Among the Nobel Prize laureates who explored sci-fi themes are British writer Doris Lessing, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges and Portuguese writer Jose Saramago.

If you're not sure where to start with sci-fi, you can always look towards Hollywood. The works of both Verne and Wells have repeatedly been made into movies and there are countless celluloid versions of 'Frankenstein' too. '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Planet of the Apes', 'A Clockwork Orange', 'Dune' and 'Jurassic Park' were all based on popular sci-fi novels. 'A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe' was based on the book that kicked off the subgenre known as comical sci-fi.

The sci-fi section of your local bookstore or library will have great novels to try. You'll also find some works in the 'Classics' section. If you don't know where to start, it's also useful to search online and read the reviews of novels that might appeal to you.

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